This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine sources prepared and mounted by Paul Stephenson.




CONSTANTINE VII PORPHYROGENITUS, DE CERIMONIIS AULAE BYZANTINAE, I, 38 (ed. Reiske, I, pp. 191-6; ed. Vogt, II, pp. 1-5, cc. 47-8)

 

Those things which must be observed at the coronation of the emperor

 

All arrive with robes, and the whole senate and the officers of the Schools and the other regiments change and assume in advance the insignia for escorting the sovereigns ( despotas ), and when all is ready, the emperor ( basileus ) 1 departs the Augusteion, wearing his skaramangion and purple sagion , 2 escorted by [his personal staff] of the bedchamber, and proceeds as far as the Onopodion, 3 and the first reception of the patricians occurs at the Onopodion, where the [Master] of Ceremonies ( o epi tês katastaseôs ) says “May you reign” and they [the patricians] acclaim “For many and good years.” Then they process down as far as the great Konsistorion, and within the Konsistorion are standing the consuls ( hypatoi ) and the rest of the senators, and the sovereigns stand in the kiborion , and all the senators together with the patricians prostrate themselves. As they rise, the sovereigns give a sign to the praipositos , and the silentarios 4 intones “At your command,” and they [the senators and patricians] acclaim “For many and good years.” And they move off into the church [of Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia] through the Schools, and the demes ( ta merê ) properly attired are standing in their [assigned] places, making only the sign of the cross. 5

 

And when the emperor ( basileus ) has entered the Horologion, the entrance [curtain] is raised, and he goes into the mêtatorion and changes into the divêtêsion and the tzitzakion and throws over them the sagion , 6 and enters with the patriarch and lights candles on the silver doors, and entering the nave and he proceeds to the solaia and prays before the holy gates, with lighted candles, and returns into the ambo together with the patriarch. Then the patriarch says a prayer over the chlamys , 7 and when the prayer is complete the [servants] of the bedchamber take it and attire the master ( despotês ). And again [the patriarch] says a prayer, over the crown ( stemma ) itself, and when that is complete, the patriarch himself takes the crown and places it on the head of the master, 8 and immediately the people cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy.Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.” Thrice. Then “O such a great emperor (basileus ) and autocrat (autoktaror ), many years,” and again. And wearing the crown he goes down and enters the mêtatorion and sits on the sellion, 9 and the dignitaries enter, prostrating themselves and kissing both his knees. Entrance one: the magisters; entrance two: the patricians and generals; third entrance: the first swordbearers (protospatharioi ); fourth entrance: [the commanders] of   the army, of the exkubitores , of the hikanatoi and of the noumeroi ; the senatorial swordbearers ( spatharioi ) and consuls ( hypatoi ); fifth: the swordbearers ( spatharioi ); sixth: stratores ; seventh: counts of the Schools; eight: candidates ( kandidatoi ) of the cavalry; nine: skribônoi and domestikoi ; ten: asêkretai, bestêtores and silentarioi ; eleven: imperial mandatores and candidates ( kandidatoi ) of the infantry; twelve: counts of the arithmos , of the hikanatoi , tribunes ( tribounoi ), and counts of the fleet. 10

 

And the praipositos says “At your command,” and they acclaim “Many and good years,” then depart. The kiss of peace and communion are after the custom of feast days, and all the remaining matters are fulfilled even as is the custom.

 Acclamations of the demes at the coronation of the emperor

 

With the regular solemnity observed, and when the despots have made their procession into the holy church, and all the ritual associated with the processions is completed, and the despots have ascended with the patriarch into the ambo (for there is placed an altar on which are set aside the chlamys and the crowns), then the patriarch says a prayer over the chlamys, and after the prayer the patriarch gives the chlamys to the great [i.e. senior] emperor ( megalos basileus ). 11 Then the emperor and the praipositoi put the chlamys on the newly-created emperor, and again the patriarch says a prayer over the crowns ( stemmata ), and first with his own hands crowns the great emperor, then gives the [second] crown to the great emperor, and the [senior] emperor crowns the newly-created emperor, and immediately the two demes ( merê ) cry out, saying “Worthy.” And they bow low to the ground ( proskynousi ) before the sceptres (skêptra, [alt. halberds])and other insignia together with the banners (vandôn), placed to the right and left on one side and the other, all of the senate and the demes standing on the right-hand side of the ambo to the east. And the chanters ( kraktai, [leaders of the demes] ) intone “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth,” which the people repeat thrice. The chanters: “Good will to Christian folk”, which the people repeat thrice. The chanters: “May God have mercy on his people.” The people repeat this three times. The chanters: “Today is the great day of the Lord.” The people repeat this three times. The chanters: “This is the day of the life of the Romans.” The people repeat this three times. The chanters: “This [day] is the grace and glory of the world.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “On which [day] the crown of the empire.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “Is placed worthily on your head.” The people repeat this three times. The chanters: “Glory to God,the Lord of all.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “Glory to God for the crowning of your head.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “Glory to God for appointing you emperor.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “Glory to God for honouring you thusly.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “Glory to God for such benevolence.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “But you have been crowned, [so-an-so: insert name] 12 emperor, by his own hand.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “so let him guard you for many years in the purple.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “together with the empresses ( Augoustai ) and the purple-born children ( porphyrogennêtoi ).” The people repeat this. The chanters: “for the glory and elevation of the Romans.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “Hearken, O God, to your people.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “Many, many, many.” The people: “Many years upon many.” The chanters: “Many years for you, [so-and-so] emperor and [so-and-so] emperors of the Romans.” The people: “Many years to you.” The chanters: “Many years to you, attendants of the Lord.” The people: “Many years to you.” The chanters: “Many years to [so-an-so] and [so-and-so] empresses of the Romans.” The people: “Many years to you.” The chanters: “Many years to you, the good fortune of the sceptres.” The people: “Many years to you.” The chanters: “Many years to you [so-and-so] emperor of the Romans.” The people: “Many years to you.” The chanters: “Many years to you, God-crowned [so-and-so].” The people: “Many years to you.” The chanters: “Many years to you, masters, together with the empresses and purple-born children.” The people: “Many years to you.” The chanters: “May the Creator and Master of all.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “who crowned you with his own hand.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “make full your years together with the empresses and the purple-born children.” The people repeat this. The chanters: “for the perfect guardianship ( systasin ) 13 of the Roman people.

 

After these acclamations the two demes shout “Many years for the emperors,” and the rest of the acclamation, and invoke blessings on them, and so go out.

 

Basic bibliography

 

Text: Constantini Pophyrogeniti imperatoris de ceremoniis byzantini, libri duo, ed. J. J. Reiske, CSHB, 2 vols (Bonn, 1879), I, 191-6;

Constantin VII Porphyrogénète, Le livre des cérémonies , ed. & French trans. A. Vogt, 4 vols (Paris, 1935-9), II/I, 1-5; commentaire, II/ii, 1-21

 

Brightman, F. E., “Byzantine imperial coronations,” Journal of Theological Studies 2 (1901), 359-92

 

Charanis, P., “Imperial coronation in Byzantium: some new evidence,” Byzantina 8 (1976), 37-46

 

Majeska, G., “The emperor in his church: imperial ritual in the Church of St. Sophia,” in: H. Maguire, ed., Byzantine Court Culture from 829 to 1204 (Cambridge, MA, 1997), 1-11

 

McCormick, M., “Coronation,” in: The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium [ODB], ed. A. Kazhdan et al., 3 vols (Oxford & New York, 1991), I, 533-4

 

Nelson, J., “Rulers inauguration rituals in Byzantium and the West in the early middle ages,” Studies in Church History 13 (1976), 97-119; reprinted in her Politics and ritual in early medieval Europe (London, 1986)

 

Piltz, E., “Middle Byzantine court costume,” in: Maguire, ed., Byzantine Court Culture , 39-51

 

Tsirpanlis, C., “The imperial coronation and theory in «De cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae» of Constantine VII Porphyrogennitus,” Kleronomia 4 (1972), 63-91

 

Yannopoulos, P. “Le couronnement de l'empereur à Byzance: rituel et fond institutionnel,” Byzantion 61 (1991), 71-92

 

Notes

1 The ruler is already called basileus , “emperor,” which may reflect his de facto authority, and hence his ability to arrange a coronation (see Yannopoulos, 1991). This suggests that several constitutive acts had already taken place, for example acclamation and raising on a shield. But as Majeska (1997, 2) notes, although the ceremonial arrival at Hagia Sophia for the coronation mirrors that of arrivals of a crowned emperor, the “emperor does not exercise any genuinely liturgical functions (such as entering the sancturary, kissing the altar, or censing, which he does at this point in similar ceremonies) until he has been raised to ‘sacred' imperial status by his coronation.”

2 On these imperial vestments, see Piltz 1997.

3 The Augusteion, Onopodion, Konsistorion, etc., can all be located on a map in the vicinity of Hagia Sophia.

4 You are encouraged to look up the entries for praipositos and silentarios, etc., in the ODB.

5 The demes, or factions, whose costumes will have been blue and green, significantly do not acclaim the emperor at this stage.

6 At this point take a look at the map provided by Majeska 1997, reproduced above. The Horologion is in the bottom right-hand corner.

7 Texts of these prayers have been preserved. See Brightman 1901 and Tsirpanlis 1972 for translations.

8 An exclamation by the patriarch may have been omitted here. Elsewhere it is attested that the patriarch shouts “Worthy” before the congregation replies with the acclamation beginning “Holy.” It is possible that the scribe skipped a line, since Agios (Holy) and Axios (Worthy) are so similar. See Majeska 1997, 3.

9 The sellion appears to have been a small throne.

10 These are references to various ranks and offices, mainly military. You are encouraged to look them up in the ODB.

11 The following details the coronation of a junior, co-emperor.

12 The Greek deina is placed where one would insert the name of the emperor.

13 This word affords many alternative translations, including “political constitution,” “political union or unity,” and “solidity.” Tsirpanlis 1972, 71, offers "Unto perfect stablishment of the Romans."


Copyright: Paul Stephenson, November 2006; revised January 2012